Christmas! It is nearly here! It’s the season of goodwill, generosity and charity, traditionally spent with friends and family. Unfortunately, it is also the season for feuds, squabbles and full blown rows. Emotions can run high at this time of year and the potential for conflict grows, often threatening to flare up and ruin those few precious days off.
Christmas squabbles are not new. People who may not see each other from one end of the year to the next, are asked to come together and bond for enforced periods in small spaces. Throw in the extra ingredients of over-spending, the pressure to have a perfectly happy time AND copious amounts of alcohol… and it’s a volatile mix!
How can we try and avoid these arguments? We can’t avoid seeing relatives and friends, but we can rein in our expectations and resolve to not react when things get a bit frosty. Yes, it is important that we don’t feel walked over, misunderstood or unheard, but we need to communicate assertively without descending into shouting, insult throwing and for some, even violent behaviour.
During my time as a counsellor, I met many clients who experienced issues such as these during the ‘Season of Goodwill’ and the problems this caused with partners, family and friends. Sadly, the fallout can result in bad feelings, resentments and grudges leaking into the New Year. After all, sometimes things said in haste and anger are remembered long after the last of the decorations are taken down.
But don’t despair! There are various strategies that can be utilised to try and avoid small disagreements and misunderstandings before they flare up into full blown arguments:
Firstly, before you throw yourself enthusiastically into a full blown argument, take a moment to consider exactly what you are arguing about. Have you had the same argument before? Was anything resolved and what happened? Can anything be learned from last time?
Review the language you are using. One party may be talking about feelings, whilst the other might be discussing actions. These are two different languages. Some people are very practical and will use an argument to try and ‘fix’ things, set out an action plan and resolve differences that way. Others want to discuss how a situation made them feel, they may not necessarily need or want an action plan going forward. It is very doubtful that either one in this situation will understand or “hear” the other.
Resolve not to raise your voice. Give the other person time to put their point across and do not descend into hurling personal insults.
Do not bring up past arguments and issues. Concentrate on what is important in this moment only.
Be aware that it is possible there are some underlying issues. For example, an argument about spending money could have wider implications regarding controlling behaviour, or an argument about unpacking the dishwasher could be about fair division of labour in a household generally.
Consider the other persons perspective, and if this is too hard given that emotions are running high, at least try to take a minute to consider what is motivating the other person to need/want to argue.
Pick your battles. Not everything requires a full blown argument. Sometimes it really is more beneficial to compromise in certain cases, in order to have more impact in situations where you feel you really do need assert your feelings and position.
Don’t prejudge. Never convince yourself that you know what the other person is going to say next. They may have a viewpoint that you have previously not considered.
Think of victory as a situation where both sides have got their point across and feel heard and understood. Not one where one side feels vindicated and the other humiliated. This will only cause future arguments.
Consider the argument as a opportunity to learn about the other party. Perhaps compromise is acceptable following learning something new. Winning is not everything.
Don’t threaten to terminate the whole relationship. This mistake is often made when one party does not feel heard. Raising the stakes this high for added ammunition in the anger of the moment is rarely helpful if the whole relationship is put on the line. The very fact that one party is feeling like this should communicate that things have got out of hand and some cooling off time is required to reinstate perspective.
When you are speaking don’t criticise the other party by using accusatory language such as “You did/said/behaved/thought”. This is inflammatory. Instead, use “I” statements which are much more conciliatory and accepting of your role in the issue.
Be aware of what you say and more importantly, how you say it in a tense atmosphere where things can get misunderstood very quickly. For example, a helpful suggestion regarding cooking methods may seen as interfering and critical. The Christmas kitchen can be a volatile area and if you aren’t cooking this year, its probably best to stay out if the way! ‘Helpful’ comments, however well meaning, may send the chef into a full blown meltdown.
Remember that is it not essential for everyone to know how clever/well informed/intelligent you are. It is better to be seen as someone who can talk through issues sensibly, aware that there will always be differing opinions.
If all else fails, a traditional walk on Christmas/BoxingDay/ New Years afternoon may benefit all. Removing the protagonist from a situation and changing the focus can provide a much needed break, and allow parties to cool down and gain some perspective.
And finally, try and remember we are in season of goodwill, kindness and charity. Arguments will be forgotten quickly, but fond memories of time spent with loved ones will be with you forever. 🎄
Merry Christmas from Somekindof50. I wish you all a healthy, hopeful and peaceful festive season ❤️❤️